Filling Emptiness in Peter Cameron's Homework
“…we both look outside…as if in those few seconds the world might have changed.” In Peter Cameron’s Homework, readers get a glimpse into the life of destitute, eighteen-year old, Michael Pechetti. He must adjust and learn as he is prompted into a deeper depression after his dog, Keds’s, death. Michael misses an entire week of school, claiming to be “unhappy”. The author conveys a melancholy mood by starting off with Keds’s violent death – “blood would seep out like dull red words in a bad silent dream.” Furthermore, Cameron utilizes a first person narrative point of view so readers can fully appreciate Michael’s pain by his saddening thoughts. I believe the theme to be that in order to fill an emptiness in one’s life, one must first venture upon a journey in which to overcome hardships and troubles.
Mrs. Dietrich was a very intriguing character in the story. The author chose to develop further only her and Michael. Surprisingly, the author used indirect characterization to depict her. Without adjectives or full-blown descriptions, readers can clearly imagine what Mrs. Dietrich must be like – purely based on Michael’s thoughts. “I can picture her eating a banana in her tiny office…learning to write beautifully as a child and then growing up to be a guidance counselor, and this makes me unhappy.” Michael brings the readers to pity lonely Mrs. Dietrich. Simply by describing her “immaculate desk” do we get a sense of the empty life she must live, defined by an empty photo cube and calendar blotter. Michael is the same way - we develop an idea of what he is like from his thoughts. Interestingly, I think of him as both the protagonist and antagonist because though other characters do cause conflict for him, the most is internal.
“I can’t tell how sad I really am about Keds…I feel as if I’m betraying Keds.” The majority of the conflict in this short story is internal – Michael versus himself. It seems as if he is fighting and resisting himself, and preventing himself from living his own life. On the other hand, Michael additionally experiences a bout of external conflict with his family and counselor. “I was unhappy then, too. That’s what no one understands.” His family shows utmost concern for Michael and his grievances but have trouble expressing them. “My father…is very good about bringing things up and letting them drop. A lot gets dropped.” Evidently, the relationship between Michael and his father is not very strong. After pity fails to accomplish much, his mother and sister resolve to almost, annoyance His sister, quite brash in speech, puts it, “…are you over it all? …It was getting to be a little much.”
Every person experiences a sort of loss or gap in their life, be it divorce, miscarriage, death – the possibilities are endless. The journey to filling that missing feeling is a long and slow road. This strong depicts it perfectly. As aforementioned, there are many types of emptiness, many of which are expressed in Homework. His sister expressly conveys an empty vanity, craving beauty and depriving her family of food for her precious formulas and remedies. There is an empty hope where Michael and his father stare longingly out at the snow, hoping pointlessly, that the world might have changed. In Spanish class, Michael alters the happy image of flamenco dancers into pale, fragile angels. And finally, there is an emptiness that deems all meaning less. “I know the order practically by heard: graduation, graduation, birthday, mountains, baby, baby, new car, bride, bride and groom, house-.” This cycle seems like the ongoing way of life. But, the constant repetition renders these beautiful events meaningless.
Though Michael hasn’t yet found a solution to his problem, he has taken the first step; he found the right equation that will give him the right answer. “It is always a fraction” makes me feel like Michael is this part of a fraction. This new equation may just possibly give him an answer- the reciprocal to his fraction, the missing half. Though not all is well yet, he’s on a new road- the road to recovery. Solve for n.